On the Basis of Validity for Unilateral Promises



Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.4, 2013


On the Basis of Validity for Unilateral Promises



Xu Diyu and Huang Meiling


Contemporary scholars tend to conceptualize the different types of unilateral promise in Roman law as a kind of contract. However, the validity of these unilateral promises does not derive from consensus, but is a result of religious formalism and type coercion. In the medieval times, the canon law generally recognized the validity of unilateral promises in accordance with the expiation doctrines, but their coercive power was executed only within the canon law. The natural law school requires the promisee’s “reception” as a precondition for the legal binding force of a promise, hence the emergence of the contractual model of unilateral promises. The common law tradition pays less attention to the two-party structure in the expression of intent, believing that a promise can be enforced so long as there is adequate consideration. The unilateral promise system should shake off the restraint of consensualism and become an obligation-occurring model that runs parallel to the contract. In compiling its Civil Code in the future, China should build a complete system of unilateral promises.